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Victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting are identified; suspect charged with 11 counts of murder

By Sarah D. Wire • Updated Oct 28, 2018 at 6:22 PM

The 11 people killed during morning services at a Pittsburgh synagogue were brothers like Cecil and David Rosenthal, and a husband and wife in their 80s like Sylvan and Bernice Simon.

The youngest, David Rosenthal, was 54. The oldest, Rose Mallinger, was 97.

Federal authorities said Sunday that the 11 bodies were found in various places across three floors in the Tree of Life Synagogue, where three separate congregations were holding services at the time of the attack. The county medical examiner described finding ammunition “casings everywhere.”

Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh, was charged late Saturday on 29 counts, including 11 counts of murder with a firearm, and several hate crime charges such as obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.

The murder charges are all punishable by death. Bowers, who was shot, was in stable condition and under guard at a hospital, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones said at a news conference Sunday.

“This is an awful, awful period for our Jewish community and especially for the families that have been affected,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “It’s real once you hear the names.”

Police say Bowers opened fire on Saturday morning services at the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood, killing 11 people and wounding six more. Four officers were also injured. Three remain in the hospital.

During the attack and subsequent firefight with officers, Bowers repeatedly stated his desire to kill Jewish people and made comments about genocide, according to the Justice Department charging document, including, “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has monitored anti-Semitism in the U.S. for more than a century, said Sunday that the mass shooting “was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.”

Jones said authorities do not yet know where and how Bowers obtained the AR-15 and three Glock .357 handguns used in the attack. Law enforcement could need up to a week to fully examine the crime scene, he said.

“This was a large, complex crime scene and much work remains to be done,” Jones said.

Authorities searched Bowers’ apartment Saturday and his vehicle Sunday, Jones said, but he would not comment on what was found. Bowers is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Monday afternoon.

Bowers had a history of posting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant statements on social media, including a post made moments before the first 911 calls were made Saturday.

Dr. Karl Williams, chief medical examiner for Allegheny County, said three rabbis have worked with his staff to ensure that the bodies are handled properly, but he could not say if the examinations would be completed so they could be released for timely burial required by Jewish custom.

President Donald Trump ordered flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-staff through Wednesday in “solemn respect” for the victims. He said Saturday that “if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called the attack “one of the worst moments that we have experienced,” and pushed back on the president’s comments that an armed guard would have made a difference.

“We’re dealing with irrational behavior; there is no way that you can rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and taking the lives of 11 people. We shouldn’t be trying to find ways to minimize the dangers that occur from irrational behavior. We should be working to eliminate irrational behavior and the empowerment of people who would seek to cause this type of carnage from continuing,” Peduto said. “The approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those that are looking to express hatred through murder.”

Those killed in the attack were:

Joyce Fienberg, 75, of the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township, Pa.

Rose Mallinger, 97, of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough, Pa.

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill

David Rosenthal, 54, (brother of Cecil), of Squirrel Hill.

Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Pa.

Sylvan Simon, 86, (husband of Bernice), of Wilkinsburg.

Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill.

Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill.

Irving Younger, 69, of the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

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©2018 Los Angeles Times

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